US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration is assessing what level of American military force is needed in West Africa to counter the rise of extremist violence.
Pompeo said he discussed the issue of the US military presence in West Africa with Senegal President Macky Sall amid reports the Trump administration intends to reduce troops in Africa.
"We did have a lot of conversation about security issues here, about America's role in those. We've made it clear that the Department of Defence is looking at West Africa to make sure we have our force levels right," Pompeo said to reporters on Sunday.
"We have an obligation to get security right here, in the region - it's what will permit economic growth and we're determined to do that," Pompeo said. " We'll deliver an outcome that works for all of us."
Senegal's Foreign Minister Amadou Ba confirmed that West Africa is concerned about the spread of extremist violence.
"Terrorism has no border, and it is very costly," said Ba at the news conference with Pompeo. He said Senegal and the region wants continued military support from the US
"Yes, we are under threat," Ba said. "We want them (the US) to remain present. We hope they will continue to support in security areas. We hope they will continue to support us in training and intelligence.
Pompeo left Senegal Sunday to go to Angola and after that will travel to Ethiopia as the Trump administration tries to counter the growing interest of China, Russia and other global powers in Africa and its booming young population of more than 1.2 billion.
Ethiopia,has undergone dramatic political reforms since Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018. The loosening of repressive measures has been exploited by some with long-held grievances, leading to sometimes violent ethnic tensions that threaten a national election later this year.
- Associated Press
Big Tim, a beloved elephant who was one of Africa’s last giant “tuskers”, has died, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said yesterday.
“The celebrated elephant died early Tuesday morning aged 50,” KWS said in a statement.
A survivor of poachers, Big Tim was found dead of natural causes in Amboseli National Park at the foot of the snowcapped peak of Kilimanjaro, the Amboseli Trust for Elephants said.
He was “a benevolent, slow-moving preserver of the peace at Amboseli,” KWS said. “He was well known and loved throughout Kenya.”
An elephant is technically a “tusker” when its ivory tusks are so long that they scrape the ground. Usually, only old bull elephants grow their tusks long enough to reach this acclaimed status.
But conservationists estimate only a few dozen such animals with tusks that size are now left on the continent. This because poachers target the animals with the biggest ivory, and elephants with the heaviest tusks are most at risk.
With the big tuskers killed first, that reduces the gene pool; as a result most elephants in Africa today have smaller tusks than they did a century ago, scientists say.
Tim was named by researchers who called each elephant in the family herd they were monitoring by the same letter to help identify them; Tim was a member of the ‘T’ herd.
The giant pachyderm once roamed outside the national parks into farming lands and had survived poachers and angry farmers.
Vets once treated him for a spear that had gone through his ear and snapped off into his shoulder.
“Our hearts are broken,” said Wildlife Direct, a Nairobi-based conservation campaign group.
“Tim was one of Africa’s very few Super Tuskers, and an incredible elephant whose presence awed and inspired many. He was one of Kenya’s National Treasures.”
Big Tim’s body is being transported to the Kenyan capital Nairobi, where a taxidermist will preserve Tim for display at the national museum, KWS said.
Poaching has seen the population of African elephants plunge by 110,000 over the past decade to just 415,000 animals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Standard Chartered Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa and Middle East, Ms. Razia Khan, has projected a three per cent economic growth for Nigeria in 2020.
Khan, also projected that for the first time the Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) would witness accelerated growth even as the global growth was predicted to decelerate. She also said that SSA growth would be powered by Nigeria and South Africa’s economies.
She said this during her presentation of Nigeria’s 2020 economic outlook, held in Lagos, yesterday.
Khan’s projected economic growth for Nigeria was slightly above the 2.9 percent growth rate President Mohammadu Buhari proposed in the 2020 budget.
According to her, “2020 is a year we might see SSA economies growing faster in the face of slowing global economy. Growth in the SSA will be driven by the two largest economies in Africa, namely Nigeria and South Africa.”
She predicted that oil price stability and increased crude oil production would power Nigeria’s economic growth 2020.
“We have positive view on Nigeria’s growth because of developments in the fiscal and monetary sectors that will drive more expansion in the Nigerian economy. We have not lowered our Nigeria’s GDP and oil price projection.”
One of the monetary policy stance of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that would bolster the economy in 2020, according to Khan, was the push for increased private sector lending, which has since unlocked N2 trillion in to the economy.
She also noted that the return of Nigeria’s budget cycle to January-December and early implementation of the fiscal policy tool would enhance the execution of capital projects.
“The difference in 2020 is that Nigeria has reverted to normal budget cycle as early implementation of capital projects will add stimulus to the economy.”
Other developments she identified that would encourage economic growth in 2020 were the enactments of Petroleum Sharing Contract Act of 2019 and the Finance Act 2019 that increased the Value Added Tax by 50 per cent, from five to 7.5 per cent.
However, Khan warned that the ability to ensure compliance to the above legislations would be where the challenge lies for the federal government, adding that previous VAT collection did not meet government’s projected revenue earning from it.
The Standard Chartered Bank’s chief economist also warned Nigeria to do away with the its age-long sharing of oil revenue every month during FAAC, and focus on diversifying the economy so as to earn more revenue from other sources.
She also noted that Nigeria’s problem was not high debt burden, but low revenue mobilisation.
She also projected that a prolonged case of the coronavirus would affect demand for oil and might add pressure on Nigeria’s foreign exchange market.
She, however, noted that the expectation of better GDP performance in 2020 would also depend on return of positive momentum capable of building confidence and attracting private sector investments to make Nigeria economy grow by offering them higher rate on return.
The worst locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years needs some $76 million to help control measures and the money is “required by, actually, now,” the United Nations (UN) said.
So far, just $15 million has been mobilised to help stop the outbreak that threatens to worsen an already-poor hunger situation for millions of people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and elsewhere, Dominique Bourgeon, emergencies director with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told a briefing in Rome.
“You can imagine that a country that has not seen such a thing in 70 years is not well prepared,” he said of Kenya, East Africa’s economic hub.
The outbreak, blamed in part on a changing climate, now threatens to spread to South Sudan and Uganda, and new rains in the weeks to come will fuel fresh vegetation and a new wave of breeding. The outbreak might not be under control until June, when drier weather arrives, authorities have said.
But by then the number of locusts, if left unchecked, could grow 500 times, experts have warned.
“If after April the money has come, it’s somehow useless,” FAO chief Qu Dongyu told the briefing. “So the timing, location, is crucial.”
Already, the locusts, moving in swarms of hundreds of millions, have stripped some crops bare. An Ethiopian representative at the briefing told the FAO that some farmers in Africa’s second most-populous nation have lost 90 per cent of their production.
The locusts have been moving steadily towards Ethiopia’s Rift Valley, the country’s breadbasket, the UN says.
Authorities have said aerial pesticide spraying is the only effective control in the outbreak, but officials in Kenya and elsewhere have said more planes and more pesticide are needed.
Even before this outbreak, nearly 20 million people faced high levels of food insecurity across the East African region long challenged by periodic droughts and floods.
Credit: The Associated Press
Isabel dos Santos was brusquely removed from her job running the giant state oil company, Sonangol. Her half-brother received similar treatment at the state's sovereign wealth fund, and soon afterwards found himself in custody and is now on trial for allegedly trying to smuggle some $500m (£380m) out of the country . José Filomeno dos Santos has denied wrongdoing.
But JLo's moves to tackle corruption is now in danger of being overshadowed, and perhaps even derailed, by the second, key, part of his reform program - the economy.
Today, Africa is seen as one of the most promising regions for hotel developers. Aside from small chains and independents, four global hotel groups dominate signings and openings on the continent.
Over the last four rolling quarters, as of September 2019, Accor, Hilton, Marriott International and Radisson Hotel Group have opened 2,800 rooms and signed deals for 6,600 rooms. Across Africa, hotel development remains important in most advanced economies, such as Morocco and South Africa; and projects are multiplying in East Africa, especially in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
In West Africa, Nigeria is back on the development scene thanks to emerging regional destinations beyond Abuja and Lagos. Francophone Africa is also moving fast. The Ministry of Tourism of Ivory Coast has launched an ambitious national plan for tourism development, Sublime Cote d’Ivoire, and already announced over US$1bn investment in the sector. Senegal is the other regional star, with local programmes such as Diamnadio, Lac Rose near Dakar and Pointe Sarene. Other countries showing active hotel development include Benin, Cameroon, Guinea, Niger, and Togo.
Now, in an interview, Philippe Doizelet, Managing Partner, Hotels, Horwath HTL, West Africa’s leading hospitality consultant, in conjunction with the Forum de l’Investissement Hôtelier Africain (FIHA), the premier hotel investment conference in Francophone Africa, has identified four fundamental factors which are fuelling an increasing flow of investment into the hospitality sector in West Africa. They are, in alphabetical order: Air connectivity, Better economic growth, Currency and Demographics.
In the past few years, additional flight connections have transformed travel to and from West Africa, which, in the words of Philippe Doizelet, Managing Partner, Hotels, Horwath HTL, has been a game changer.
He said: “It used to be that the main hubs for flying between West African countries were Paris and Casablanca. However, thanks to the rapid growth of Ethiopian Airlines and other carriers, such as Emirates, Kenya Airways and Turkish, the situation has changed; and new routes are offered to travellers. For example, it is now possible to fly direct from New York to Abidjan, where the African Development Bank is located, and to Lomé, where the Central Bank of West African States (BOAD) is situated… and with increased travel comes increased commerce and demand for accommodation.” According to the UNWTO, international tourist arrivals in Africa grew by 7% in 2018, one of the fastest growth rates in the world together with East Asia and the Pacific.
The flight data analyst, ForwardKeys, recently confirmed that trend continuing. In 2019, African aviation experienced 7.5% growth and it is the stand-out growth market for Q1 2020. As at 1st January, international outbound bookings were ahead 12.5%, 10.0% to other African countries and ahead 13.5% to the rest of the world. As a destination, Africa is also set to do well, as bookings from other continents are currently ahead by 12.9%.
The second factor is the superior economic growth of many West African countries, which are expanding substantially faster than many of the world’s most advanced economies. According to World Bank data for 2018, several, such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Senegal are growing at 6% per annum or better, more than double the world average, 3%. That is a potent attraction to international investors. However, that’s not all; as prosperity grows domestically, so too does the local financial services industry. It then looks to invest client monies; and a good proportion of that capital gravitates towards real estate projects and, in turn, new domestic infrastructure. As those projects come to fruition, more prosperity is generated and so a virtuous cycle is stimulated, which acts as a catalyst for further economic development.
Currency is the third factor. Later this year, the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro, is planned to be dropped and 15 countries in West Africa (ECOWAS) will adopt the Eco, a new, free-floating, common currency, designed to reduce the cost of doing business between them and so increase trade. However, whilst there is great enthusiasm for the Eco, it is somewhat qualified because the economies of participating countries are at different stages of development and governments may find it difficult to adhere to agreed guidelines for managing their economies.
The fourth factor is demographics. The population is young and the fastest growing of any major world region. According to Philippe Doizelet, it is also characterised by a hunger to learn and confidence about the future. “People are seeing their standards of living improve and they are keen to seize opportunities. We are seeing that mindset reflected throughout the hospitality industry; it’s incredibly refreshing and it’s attracting business.” He said.
However, the picture is not all rosy. Horwath HTL also identifies four factors which threaten economic progress; they are security issues, political agenda, governance and increasing public debt. Although Africa today experiences much less conflict than it did three or four decades ago, when most African countries experienced war, some parts of the Sahel are still subject to security threats. On the political front, although democracy is continuing to spread, it is not yet the general rule everywhere, especially when come the times of major elections. Third is governance. Philippe Doizelet says: “When people are poor and the state is weak, there will be corruption, but I’m not convinced that it is much worse than in other parts of the world.” The fourth concern is rising public debt, much of which has been incurred as long-term loans from the Chinese to build infrastructure. That said, the debt to GDP ratio of many West African states is still less than many highly developed nations.
Matthew Weihs, Managing Director, Bench Events, which organises FIHA, concluded: “Africa is not the easiest place to do business, but it is an incredibly exciting place because the opportunities substantially outweigh the threats. Every time we organise a hotel investment forum, I see more hotel openings being announced and I meet new players keen to enter the market. The FIHA delegates are literally constructing the future of Africa in front of our eyes and anyone who attends the conference has the opportunity to join in.” FIHA takes place at the Sofitel Abidjan Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan, March 23-25.
Isabel dos Santos, 46, the daughter of Angola's long-running leader of 38 years, was mostly seen as untouchable in Luanda.
In fact, for most of her life, she represented both worlds.
She was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, during the Cold War era to a Russian mother and an Angolan father who would later become President.
She went to school in London, the centre of Western capitalism.
When she came back to Angola, her story goes, she begun from the grassroots, "sweeping the streets" of Luanda through her company, and later launched a popular restaurant known as Miami Beach.
She had made her money at 24.
But recently, the world has been treated to a trove of more than 715,000 documents showing a labyrinth of hundreds of companies around the world where money was reportedly laundered by Isabel.
Leaked documents showed how Ms dos Santos got access to lucrative land, oil, diamond and telecoms deals when her father, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was president.
New York-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which published the 'Luanda Leaks' fingered Isabel, for looting her own country and using firms around the world to clean her money.
Suddenly, leading media houses in the West and around the world were starting to question whether Isabel dos Santos was worth $2.2 billion or whether she was in deed the 75th most influential woman in the world as claimed by Forbes magazine.
So how did the Angolans see it?
First, it wasn't news. Rumours of looting by the former president's family and his ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) had been a subject of hushed discussions throughout dos Santos' 38-year rule.
In 2008, local journalist Rafael Marques created a whistleblowing website Maka Angola, where volunteers helped build a strong narrative against the integrity of the dos Santos. Few outside Angola believed him.
"Inevitably, this is the end of one empire and the political end of one family that has caused harm to Angola and to its people due to their excessive greed," Marques told the Nation in a phone interview, hopeful that the world could help pressure her into submission.
Some activists in Angola, muzzled during dos Santos reign just like journalists, said she did not "eat alone", even though targeting her could create a better public perception for the government.
CORRUPTION IN ANGOLA
"Corruption in Angola is a general thing and involves the state circles and the MPLA circles," Mr Carlos Rosado, an Angolan journalist who worked with ICIJ on the project, told Novo Jornal newspaper.
"I am not one of those who would think there is a selective persecution. We had to start from somewhere and I understand that it starts from Isabel dos Santos. That is the most reported case now but the judicial authorities have to expand the investigation scope to other sectors and personalities," Rosado said.
Isabel was often unreachable and untouchable.
Hiding behind a father who was the head of state, she simply chose to sue for any perceived malicious reporting or use state organs to harass critics.
In the wake of the recent scandalising stories, however, she has been all over fighting back the accusations.
In an interview with the BBC, she claimed the trove of files were stolen papers to orchestrate "witch hunt" against her and her father.
In Angola, Isabel's assets include a 25 per cent stake in Unitel, one of the southern Africa state's two mobile phone networks, and a 25 per cent stake in Banco Internacional de Credito (Banco BIC), 51 per cent in BFA and 99.9 per cent in Zap Media.
Last month, prosecutors froze her bank accounts and assets along with her husband's (Sindika Dikolo) after a court ordered she repays the state some $75 million in dodged taxes.
She did not appear in court and the decision was made in her absentia.
But she fought back the move in the mainstream media and social media, describing the freezing as baseless political vendetta.
"This is an orchestrated and well-coordinated political attack, ahead of elections in Angola next year. It is an attempt to neutralise me and to discredit the legacy of President Dos Santos and his family," she argued.
"I am a private businesswoman who has spent 20 years building successful companies from the ground up, creating over 20,000 jobs and generating huge tax revenue for Angola. Last year my businesses paid over $100 million in tax."
Her fall from grace began shortly after her father left the seat in 2017.
His successor, João Lourenço, sacked her as chair of the state-owned oil firm Sonangol in 2018.
Angolan Attorney- General Hélder Pitta Grós says she laundered money, forged documents and committed other economic crimes and maladministration during her stewardship of state-owned oil firm Sonangol.
Alexandre Neto, a political analyst in Luanda, told the Nation that the decisive move by authorities was an opportunity to launch a new governance system in Angola.
Her dealings in Portugal and elsewhere suggest the network for corruption was beyond Angola.
"Ms Isabel dos Santos revelations show that there is an international corruption web that goes beyond investigations in Angola", Mr Domingos da Cruz, a lecturer at state-owned Agostinho Neto University and activist said after the documents showed she profited from Western auditing firms.
"It is not a surprise that western governments, and companies, participated in what is now being seen as corruption for Ms Isabel dos Santos, her family and friends, and members of the former government," Mr da Cruz said.
Locally, Angola's perennial corruption means anyone else in power could steal.
Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 released Thursday ranks Angola 146 out of 180 countries, just 19 positions better than it was in 2018.
In fact, the ruling MPLA is handling the matter cautiously. Its top officials refused to talk about it.
MPLA spokespeople refused to return calls by journalists.
And Mr Manuel da Cruz Neto, an MPLA legislator only said "I have no details about this and I don't comment on media cases".
Opposition MPs, however, say Luanda Leaks purge has to spread to other Angolan individuals who allegedly siphoned money from the state.
Mr Liberty Chiaka Angolan of the main opposition party Unita said there were local henchmen.
"It involves a lot of people. The corruption fight should not be done in a selective manner but broadly and this means employing deeper political changes," he said, lamenting how details of fraud were published by foreigners rather than the local Attorney-General's office.
Ahead of elections next year, Ms Dos Santos hinted she could run for President.
But she has been exiled since her father left the seat and the MPLA claimed only the party president becomes a presidential candidate.
Meanwhile, Ms Dos Santos has accused everyone publishing information from the leaked documents as either racist or part of a political witch-hunt to finish her.
Source: Daily Nation
The Sudanese government signed a preliminary deal with one rebel group on Friday, a move that is seen as the possibility for reconciliation in Sudan.
The deal, signed by Sudan’s ruling council and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) conveys special status to two regions: South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Both were already partly under control of rebel groups, and the sites of years of conflict.
"After this signing we are going to finalise the full agreement and the SPLM-North will be part of the new system in Khartoum," said Yasir Arman, deputy head of SPLM-N, at the ceremony.
This new status means that the two special regions will be able to draft their own laws, with an aim to resolving ongoing land disputes in the area, said Arman.
The process towards this first step began in October when the ruling council and the rebel groups re-started talks in an effort to end the conflicts.
"The government of Sudan is more willing than before to reach a peaceful settlement in Sudan", said General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, a major figure in the transition council and the head of the government delegation at the peace talks.
Another key point to the agreement is to unify the militias and government troops into one military, said Arman.
One voice absent from the ceremony was Abdelaziz al-Hilu of a rival SPLM-N rebel group who makes up the majority of fighters on the ground.